Hotel Destination photography
by Michelle Chaplow
One element of hotel photography which is very important, but is too often missed, is the hotel’s location. An essential part of photographing any establishment is to bring out the best not only in the hotel itself, but also focusing on, and documenting photographically, its location – the guest’s destination. Sell more room nights by highlighting the destination.
We all know that good hotel photography attracts reservations. Hundreds and thousands of hotels in destinations all over the world, are constantly enticing guests to reserve rooms using quality photography of their properties to attract and inspire – everything from top luxury chains to charming independent hotels, all are aiming for the “take me there” shot. But somehow this same emphasis doesn’t seem to apply to the hotel´s destination photography; sometimes it is almost forgotten, yet it could be a key to bringing in additional revenue.
Today I want to focus on destinations, giving tips on how to highlight the area where the hotel is located, and the fact that by visually documenting a hotel’s location, this can draw reservations.
Let’s start with an obvious example: it’s highly unlikely that any hotel in the city of Agra, India, would fail to omit photos of the Taj Mahal from its promotional material. However many top hotels around the world are selling stylish, spacious rooms, gourmet meals and high-tech conference services effectively, while failing to put the same effort into selling their location. The Taj is seen by marketers as an obvious selling point, but the charm of a white Mediterranean hilltop village, or a pretty little port on the doorstep of a Spanish hotel may not be that obvious to its owners.
I remember photographing colourful geraniums in Spain years ago – but Spanish photographers were astonished, telling me that geraniums weren’t interesting. I can’t tell you how many brochures, websites and magazines have published those flower-laden pots over the decades since. What a local sees as normal can often be exotic and appealing to foreign eyes.
Tips for photographing a hotel’s location
1. Room with a view
A view from the room to the destination, whether buzzy city, peaceful countryside, or blue sea. Paris would be a typical example – I´m always amazed by the sheer quantity of hotels with views of the Eiffel Tower. I wonder if anyone has checked if you really can see the tower from all those rooms? But that’s another blog post for another day. My point is – if you have a spectacular vista from your hotel’s rooms, then flaunt it.
2. Provide geographical indicators
Geo-indicators give subtle visual hints and tempting signposts of the hotel’s location to give a flavour of the destination, for example using handicrafts or cultural references typical of the area – characteristic blue and white ceramic tiles in Portugal, silver tea pots in Morocco, Arabic scripts in Dubai, or the national gastronomy of a particular country. All these items bring a flavour of the destination into your hotel. Hotels are selling dreams.
3. The immediate destination
As you step outside a city-centre hotel, you’ll find monuments and attractions right on your doorstep, such as delectable French bakeries in Paris and the magnificent Charles V bridge in Prague.
Other hotels can be more isolated, without any attractions to visit in the immediate vicinity, but with extensive grounds which provide a haven for guests. Finca Cortesin in Andalucia and The Amanjena in Marrakesh spring to mind here. Their beautifully manicured gardens, with indigenous plants and tropical flowers, are a key part of the location and should be highlighted as such.
Some hotels even have their own islands, such as the Hayman Hotel on Hayman Island in Australia. This is an all-in-one hotel and destination, and by documenting the island location, as well as the hotel itself, it’s win-win. Think aerial views of the island surrounded by azure waters, paradisical views from the ocean, lush vegetation, and stunning sunrises and sunsets.
4. The nearby destination
Within a few minutes’ walk, or a short drive or taxi ride: iconic monuments such as Big Ben for a London hotel or hidden picture-postcard pretty ports in the Mediterranean islands. Each hotelier needs to think, “What is the most interesting thing near my hotel?” and commission a photographer to photograph it. But remember, it’s very important that the destination images are shot with the same look and feel as the hotel’s website and brochures, otherwise the destination will look out of synch with the rest of the imagery.
5. The day trip or half day trip
Depending on the hotel’s location, this could be anything from a day trip to La Colonia in Uruguay from Buenos Aires; to the Bowes Museum from Rockliffe Hall in County Durham, UK; to Toledo or Segovia from Madrid; to the Dali museum in Figueres from Barcelona; to Brighton from London; to the Getty Centre in Los Angeles; to the wildlife reserves and animal sanctuaries from Nairobi. By documenting these destinations, you are highlighting to potential guests the huge variety of experiences and expeditions available to them while staying at your hotel, and reminding returning clients of new adventures.
6. Experiences and destinations are interlinked
Destination is related to experience and for many years the hotel industry has cited the importance of experiences; the latest buzz phrase is “experiential travel”. Many experiences are inextricably linked to a destination, such as Thai cooking classes and local market visits at the Shangri-la Hotel in Bangkok; elephant trekking from the Oberoi Rajvillas in India; the wine train in the Napa Valley, California; trips to the golden-domed churches in Prague; and bridge-climbing in Sydney.
For years, the real estate market has concentrated on the “location, location, location” message as the most important factor when selling your home. I believe that by highlighting your destination, destination, destination, a hotel can do just the same.